Will The Next War Be Fought Over Water?

I am a Southern California native, born and raised. When we were in our mid 30s, my wife and I moved our family to the beautiful countryside of Central Ohio, and the very first thing we had to adjust to — not the weather or the fact that there are no mountains — was how green everything is here: lawns, plants & bushes, trees, everything. And, at least where we live, no one I know of has a sprinkler system to keep his lawn emerald green. Mother nature handles that chore quite well enough, at least She does here in Ohio.

But not so in Southern California, where there is simply no such thing as a green, living plant or lawn without a sprinkler system or a garden hose keeping it that way. You want something to grow? You gotta water it regularly. If you don’t, your lawn will quickly develop the rich yellow-brown hue of terminal desiccation. Some, like folks on fixed incomes in retirement communities, dispense with the cost and effort of watering altogether and just put in a rock yard. No fuss, no muss, and no water required. (It saves money, and water, but try playing a round of golf on an 18-hole rock lawn.)

The reason water is such a big deal in Southern California is the opposite of why it’s no big deal here in Ohio. There’s plenty of H2O here in the Buckeye State, plenty of rain, plenty of snow, plenty of water everywhere you go. But Los Angeles? Orange County? Riverside? San Diego? They sit in an arid zone and most all the water consumed there must be brought in from out of the area. It costs big bucks to keep Southern California properly supplied with water, and with upwards of 23 million inhabitants there (about twice the number of people in a region roughly the size of Ohio), can be difficult as well as costly.

What would happen to all those people, one wonders, if for some reason they ran out of water?

The following article on the leftward-tilting NPR website considers that very possibility and raises some disturbing possibilities, wars over water included.

While I’m fairly certain that California will never go to war with Ohio in order to acquire water, even so, California will have a dire problem on its hands (even by California standards of dire problems) if, someday, the well runs dry.

“The lesson of history is that in the tumultuous adjustment that surely lies ahead, those societies that find the most innovative responses to the crisis are most likely to come out as winners, while the others will fall behind. Civilization will be shaped as well by water’s inextricable, deep interdependencies with energy, food, and climate change. More broadly, the freshwater crisis is an early proxy of the twenty-first century’s ultimate challenge of learning how to manage our crowded planet’s resources in both an economically viable and an environmentally sustainable manner. By grasping the lessons of water’s pivotal role on our destiny, we will be better prepared to cope with the crisis about to engulf us all. . . . (continue reading)

Related: “Three Reasons That Violence Could Erupt” over water.


  1. Rick

    Desalination technologies need to be brought up to speed to meet those demands.

  2. son of Adam

    Desalination is a simple technology that is so underutilized, but it takes a lot of energy to vaporize the water. I have often wondered why they have not invested the resources to develop direct solar to evaporate the water on a large scale. It is being used in areas of Africa where coastal waters are abundant and the population is small enough to utilize it on a smaller scale. Real estate is the real dilemma to make this economic in Southern California. It takes a vast amount of space to produce the water needs that have to be met. This process can also be used to clarify grey water.

  3. chhaprahiya@yahoo.com

    Can you spell N-A-T-I-V-E P-L-A-N-T-S? There are many that stay green all summer long without water. This can save over 50% of the water use in So. Cal.

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